Treasures of the Natural World tours science's greatest hits
Some of the most intriguing items from the Natural History Museum in London have made their way to Melbourne Museum in Victoria, Australia. The Treasures of the Natural World exhibition has finally opened, showcasing a selection of important artefacts from nature and the scientists who explored it.
The London Natural History Museum is home to one of the largest and most important scientific collections in the world. And since we can’t currently travel, the museum has kindly brought 200 of the most important pieces to us – Melbourne is the fifth city to host the Treasures of the Natural World exhibition, after Tokyo, Singapore, Taipei and Quebec City.
Among the highlights are a 12,000-year old saber-toothed cat skeleton, exceptionally well-preserved since the Ice Age thanks to the La Brea tar pits in California. As the guides explained, much can be inferred from the bones about the life of these animals – their powerful front limbs would have been used to pin down their prey, while the huge fangs delivered a quick killing blow. Sheaths on the tips of the toes hint at the terrifying retractable claws that they would have housed.
Other sections of the exhibition showcase items belonging to some of the most influential scientists in history. There are fossil fragments that Richard Owen used during his comparative anatomy studies, which led to him identifying a large group of extinct animals – and naming them “Dinosauria.” Owen went on to co-found the Natural History Museum itself.
Also on display are birds from the collection of Charles Darwin, which were instrumental in the development of the theory of evolution. And we can see the culmination of that work, with a rare first edition of On the Origin of Species in a replica of his office. Another hugely seminal book, Pliny the Elder’s Historia Naturalis, is present and accounted for too – the edition on display, published in 1469, is the oldest book in the Museum’s collection.
However it’s not all scientific praise – several icons of extinction serve as stark reminders of humanity’s negative influence on nature. The dodo of Mauritius, the thylacine of Tasmania and the moa of New Zealand were all hunted to extinction within a century of humans arriving in each location, and their legacies are discussed in the exhibition.
So come take a virtual stroll with us through the exhibit in our gallery – or if you can get to Melbourne, go check it out in person. Treasures of the Natural World is now running at Melbourne Museum until January 16, 2022.